Junior guard Alexa Middleton scored a career-high 21 points and the No. 13 Tennessee Lady Vols shot 12-of-14 outside the arc Sunday as they beat Navy 85-55.
The Lady Vols got off to a sluggish start, letting Navy take the lead on-and-off throughout the first quarter, before breaking away late in the first half and finishing strong.
Middleton finished 7-of-11 on shooting attempts, including 6-of-7 from outside the arc. Mercedes Russell had 18 points.
Coach Holly Warlick said the team is in a shooting groove, especially with three-pointers, and it's a testament to the hours they put in working on it. Warlick also said Middleton is believing in herself, and may consider putting the junior in the starting lineup.
"“I’ve always thought Alexa Middleton could be a difference maker for us," Warlick said after the game Sunday. "And I’ve told her that. And she knows how I feel about her. So hopefully she’s seeing the result of my confidence in her. And I’m going to put her in situations. I’m not going to jerk her out."
Middleton agreed confidence has paved the way for a successful shooting team.
"We trust each other," Middleton said. "We were getting the ball. Jordan [Reynolds] said 'Get open, I’m going to throw you the ball after I hit two.' So I think it just comes from trust and confidence in each other and in ourselves."
Warlick described Sunday's game as a "tale of two halves," as Tennessee barely held on to a 19-16 lead after the first quarter. Tennessee players said Warlick had a stern discussion with them at halftime.
"We didn’t have energy, we didn’t have passion for whatever reason," Warlick said. "Our halftime was not a lot of drawing up things, it was just a healthy discussion on what we need to do. I thought the second half was so much better."
Sunday marked the Lady Vols' home opener, as they hosted 8,212 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena. The win over Navy gave the Lady Vols their 17th consecutive win in a home opener. Warlick, in her fifth season at the helm, is 5-0 in home openers.
Tennessee next will play at East Tennessee State for a 7:00 pm game Tuesday.
(© 2016 WBIR)